One of my must sees in Concord was the Orchard House and it was the last stop of the day. Louisa May Alcott lived here with her family from 1858 to 1877. More importantly, while in residence at the Orchard House she wrote Little Women. For fans of Alcott and the novel this house contains around 80% of the furnishings of Louisa and her family. As you stroll through the house it brings vivid images from the beloved classic. Elizabeth, the inspiration for Beth March in the novel, never lived in the Orchard House. She died in March 1858 and the family moved into the home weeks later. Louisa, her parents, and her two surviving sisters, Anna and May, resided in the home. The novel Little Women, is semiautobiographical and is set in the home. All of her family members were inspiration for the March family. Anna was the inspiration for “Meg”, May is “Amy,” her mother is “Marmee, ” and her father is “Mr. March.”
Our tour guide was informative and friendly. Before visiting the home, I did not know that the family was vegetarian. Also the family was quite progressive about the leading issues of the day including Women’s suffrage, abolitionism, and social reform. These topics and others would be discussed during meals. Another fact that I found interesting was that in the novel Mr. March went off to war. However, in real life, it was Louisa who volunteered her services during the Civil War. She was a nurse and wrote a book about her experiences, titled Hospital Sketches. This couldn’t be included in the novel since it was more acceptable at the time to have a man go off to war.
Pictures inside the home are not allowed, however if you click on the link above you can take a virtual tour of the home. While touring the home we saw the parlor were Anna and John Bridge Pratt were married on May 23, 1860. In addition, we were privileged to see Anna’s wedding gown, which isn’t always on display. Also throughout the home, you can see May’s art. In her bedroom there are many sketches on the woodwork. May’s work can also be seen in Louisa’s bedroom. Our guide shared that May was not that happy with Louisa’s depiction of her as a brat as a child.
In Louisa’s room you can see the “shelf” desk that was built by her father for her to write. It was at this desk that Louisa penned Little Women in 1868. According to our guide, Louisa would write for 12-14 hours at a time and she taught herself to write with both hands so when one hand tired she could use her other hand and not interrupt her train of thought.
Also on the property is The Concord School of Philosophy. This school was run by Bronson, the father, and was in operation from 1879 to 1888. It is one of the first schools for adult education. Our guide told us that Bronson had tried to run other schools but due to his liberal views these schools did not survive since the parents did not approve of his teaching methods. Actually, Bronson was always trying out new things and most were not successful. As it turns out, he was not a great provider for the family. However, due to Louisa’s fame, The Concord School of Philosophy was successful. In fact, Louisa’s writing supported the family.
In 1884 the family sold the Orchard House. On March 6, 1888, Louisa died in Boston. She was 55 years old. Her father died on March 4, 1888.